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Book signing for newest book to benefit Natchez Children’s Home

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For many in Natchez, Greg Iles is simply the late and beloved Natchez physician Dr. Jerry Iles’ oldest boy.

Running into him at a store or restaurant in town has become old hat.

That’s not the case for Iles’ tens of thousands of fans around the country and the world.

A visit to Iles’ Facebook page — he has more than 44,000 fans — is proof enough the bestselling author has a following readers who are counting the days until the April 21 U.S. release of “The Bone Tree.”

Here is a sampling of comments:

“I can’t wait for ‘The Bone Tree!’” said Kathy Johnson Hobdy of Portland, Tenn.

“You have some of the most polished writing I have ever read and such wonderfully constructed characters in this series, they have become the staple when friends and family ask me for a new author to read,” said Jon Hull of Seaford, N.Y.

“I’ve been a fan since I read ‘The Quiet Game’ in the late ’90s. I own and have read all your books and am anxiously awaiting April 21!” said Debra Holland Matherne of Littleville, Ala.

“The Bone Tree” is the second novel in Iles’ Natchez Burning trilogy. Iles’ character Dr. Tom Cage is based on the life and medical practice of his late father, a family physician who practiced in Natchez from 1963 right up until his death in 2010. The fictional Dr. Cage, suspected of murder and on the run, moves front and center in “The Bone Tree.”

“Natchez Burning” debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list, a ranking considered the benchmark in the industry for a novel’s success.

“I know advance sales are tracking right along with ‘Natchez Burning’ a year ago, so “The Bone Tree” should do well,” Iles said. “But predicting a spot on the New York Times list is very tricky. It all depends on whom you happen to be up against when you come out, and right now the competition is pretty tough.”

Iles said the original version of the third book in the trilogy is written, “but given how many changes I made in the first two, I’ll have to make a detailed pass through it to reflect the earlier changes. It could come out as soon as a year from now, but it might be longer. That’s not set in stone at this point,” he said.

Natchez residents don’t have to wait until the April 21 release for “The Bone Tree” or to get a glimpse of Iles. He will be signing books from 2 to 5 p.m., Sunday, April 19, at Dunleith, his second such fundraiser for the Natchez Children’s Home.

The Children’s Home is taking pre-orders for the book, said Nancy Hungerford, its executive director and Iles’ mother-in-law.

“If you call Miss Liz at the Children’s Home, we can go ahead and get your name and form of payment and we can have the book signed. Or, you can come to the event and pick up the book and have it signed there,” Hungerford said.

She said there is no charge for the event at Dunleith.

“It’s an open invitation to the public. If you call the Children’s Home and pre-order the book, it will be at the event waiting on you. If you want to wait and have him sign it there, that’s great,” Hungerford said.

Half of the $30 purchase price for a signed book is tax-deductible.

“Greg made the Children’s Home his beneficiary of a signing after the first book, ‘Natchez Burning,’” she said. “What he probably won’t tell you is he has been a long-time friend and supporter of the Children’s Home. This is an extremely tangible, but only the most recent way he has helped the home.

“Greg has his own children who are very special to him and he cares deeply that an agency in the community is dealing with children and working to provide them with the same opportunity and protection and nurture he gives his own kids. He loves that a Natchez agency is responding to the needs of children in our community.”

Iles said he’s helping the Natchez Children’s Home “because they need help. When it was a residential home, it was easy to think of it as an ‘orphanage,’ and that tugs everybody’s heartstrings. But they still play a critical role in this community, helping at-risk children, particularly those who’ve suffered sexual abuse. We’ve got to make sure that institutions like this survive in Natchez.”

In addition to an opportunity to meet Iles and have him sign his book, the event will feature entertainment and a cash bar and The Castle will be serving food from what it calls the “Greg Iles menu.”

“He likes Southern cooking, just like many of us do, even though it’s not the best thing for you,” Hungerford said. “It’s such a pleasant event — casual and unhurried, and the grounds of Dunleith are just beautiful. And if it rains, that’s OK. The house is big enough. We’ll just move things inside.”

Iles will be heading out soon to promote his latest book.

“I usually dread touring up front, but once I’m actually on the road, meeting readers turns out to be a great experience. It’s the traveling that gets you. Scheduling is tight and you cover a lot of cities very quickly. This year I’m focusing on the west coast: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, L.A. And, I’m doing Mississippi, of course, as always. You meet more people than you can ever remember, but I’m always surprised how many folks in far-flung cities have actually been to Natchez. Also, more and more have been coming here after reading the books, and that’s always good to hear,” he said.

Iles said he hopes for a good turnout at Dunleith for the book signing.

“Come out to Dunleith and support the Children’s Home. Right now, that’s the only place to get signed books, and I’m looking at this event as a party to celebrate both the success of the book and also the news about the TV deal,” he said. “Last year, we sold 1,000 books, and this year I want to move more than that.”

News broke earlier this month that “Natchez Burning” may become a television series developed by Amazon Studios.

To pre-order your copy of “The Bone Tree,” call the Natchez Children’s Home at 601-442-6858.

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